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How to Create a Capsule Maternity Wardrobe

One that lasts the whole 9 months

By Joanne Hoare

If you're struggling to squeeze into Spanx or can't decide how to accessories your bump,
fashion expert Joanne Hoare has lots of tips for dressing up - or dressing down - during pregnancy.

Dressing a changing body can be tough. Something that fitted you last week might have no chance now, and that expensive dress you splashed out on at the beginning of your pregnancy? Well, you got one wear out if it. No one wants to spend loads of cash on a maternity wardrobe they can only wear for a few months but a girl’s gotta get dressed! And feeling good about yourself and your new body is important. Luckily, these tips should help you get through your pregnancy in style – and without blowing the budget.

The items you can’t do without

While there’s no need to buy a whole new pregnancy wardrobe (unless you want to), the one fashion item most mums-to-be say they can’t live without are maternity jeans. That said, they can be confusing – under the bump, over the bump, front panelled, side panelled? Generally speaking, under the bump works better in early pregnancy with over the bump more comfortable later on or if you’re plus-sized.

A close runner-up in the pregnancy essentials list are maternity tights, particularly if you’re pregnant in autumn and winter. While your final must-haves are simple, comfy T-shirt dresses. Buy a few in neutral colours and you can dress them up with a blazer for work or team with Converse at the weekend.

"I found maternity tights with the plastic hold-up bit on the waistband by far the best – others are infuriatingly fall-downy.”

Cara Matheson, 36, London

Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise

While you’ll probably want to buy your maternity basics in neutral shades you can wear with everything, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo feeling fashionable.

Accessories are a great way to dress things up, and they don’t have to be designer. Light scarves that you wear long and loose will elongate your figure if you don’t feel like drawing attention to your bump, and they can double as a cover up for discreet breastfeeding once the baby has arrived. Want something a bit more blingy? Look-at-me chandelier earrings posh up a basic dress and add definition to your jawline if you feel that’s changed, too.

“I hardly bought any new clothes when I was pregnant, so I actually ended up saving money. That meant I could treat myself to the pair of designer sunglasses I’d wanted for ages. I felt like my head was the only thing that didn’t grow! And now my baby is a toddler I still wear them to hide sleepless nights.”

Bronagh Meere, 33, Kent, is a blogger at

Borrow from the boys

When it comes to casual comfies, before you spend money, take a look in your other half’s wardrobe. There are bound to be shirts, hoodies, T-shirts and jumpers in there that you can make work for you.

“I’d pinch stuff from my husband when I was pregnant, particularly striped tees, checked shirts or hoodies, and then team them with a black or grey maternity vest to avoid embarrassing ride-ups.”

Anna Dewhurst, 37, London

Flat out

Leave the heels to Kim K. The extra weight of pregnancy plus an altered sense of gravity and softening ligaments means heels aren’t only going to be uncomfortable, they can also be dangerous. Thankfully, flat shoes are having a serious fashion moment, so you don’t need to punish your poor feet in strappy heels.

Ankle boots are another great option, as they offer more support than basic flat shoes and are super-flattering on your legs. Opt for a rock chic feel with a pair of studded biker boots, play up to the androgyny trend with smart Chelsea boots or add a little yee-hah with some classic Cowboys.

“Invest in loads of cool slip-on flats. You will get to a stage when you can’t reach your feet to do up buckles or laces. Plus, you’ll wear them when the baby comes. Heels + newborn = scary!”

Charley Williams-Howitt, Essex

What not to buy

Tent dresses. Back in the day, women were encouraged to conceal their bump – hands up who remembers Princess Diana’s smocks – but now maternity fashion is all about celebrating the bump, and with good reason, too. Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to feel old-fashioned, frumpy or apologetic; you can still be stylish.

Another not-to-buy is occasionwear, unless you have a number of engagements coming up. If you’re just going to one wedding or christening then beg, borrow or steal from your mummy friends – one of them is bound to have a posh frock.

“Wear fitted clothes that show off your bump, as tent-like smocks just make you look and feel fat and bigger than you are. Plus, it’s the only time I didn’t feel I had to suck my stomach in!”

Sian Walton, Oxford

Joanne Hoare

Jo Hoare is a freelance writer and editor, she spent the first ten years of her career dealing with celebrity temper tantrums
as heat's Fashion and Beauty Editor and now writes books on style and popular culture.

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